Each month, the Advocate visit with Sgt. Mike Gurley, Sr. Cpl. Pam Maines and Sr. Cpl. Rick Janich of the East Dallas Storefront police station, 1327 N. Peak Street (670-5523). The Storefront is best-known for its bicycle patrol officers, who pedal the streets of East Dallas weekdays. The City of Dallas funds the Storefronts, but numerous volunteers and organizations provide both hours and funds to develop special programs aimed at building better relations among police officers and neighborhoods.
Advocate: Any comments on the shooting of the Dallas police officer near Lakewood Elementary?
Mike: I think it was a random thing, simply the case of both the officer and the bad guys being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those kids were not apparently intent on attacking someone. They were confronted, in this case, by the officer, and that’s what led to this incident.
Advocate: I know of at least one neighborhood person who purchased a gun for protection following the shooting.
Mike: Personal safety is a different issue, and people shouldn’t take this event out of context. A citizen going out and buying a gun would not have solved that problem or kept the shooting from happening.
Citizen: Excuse me, officer (interrupting discussion). Can you help me? We are trying to take one of our employees to Timberlawn (psychiatric institute), and our office is just over there (gesturing), and he originally said he would go, but now he won’t. Can you come with us and help get him over there?
Pam: Do you have a warrant to commit him?
Rick: You know, written permission from the court to have him committed against his will?
Citizen: Do we need that?
Officers (in chorus): Yes.
(Editor’s note: During a brief discussion with the citizen, the officers were told the employee had not created a public disturbance or harmed anyone. THe officers explained that unless an immediate danger to the employee or someone else was noted, the officers could not intervene. The citizen and a companion, still confused, left the restaurant for a public telephone across the street.)
Advocate: Do you think they’re over at the telephone trying to get a warrant issued before you guys finish lunch?
Pam: Probably. You know, when we’re eating dinner or lunch, and we have our uniforms on, we’re always getting interrupted. We were at Wendy’s the other day, and we had been sitting there for about 15 minutes, and a guy came over and pointed across the street to a guy he said had asked his wife for money three times. He wanted us to do something about it, right then. So we went across the street and told the guy not to ask the wife for money.
You never know what is going to come up, but people seem to feel less inhibited about coming up and asking for help when we’re sitting down in a restaurant.
Advocate: Does anyone ever come over and say “good job” or anything like that?
Rick: Yeah. Or every once in awhile, when we get ready to pay the bill, somone will have taken care of it for us. One time, a family bought us our dinner—they saw my partner and me in this burger place, and our clothes were all dirty because we had been in a fight (in the line of duty), and I guess we looked hungry. So that was nice. You know, Ross Perot has a reputation for buying officers’ meals at a Dixie House in town. Just to show support, I guess.
Pam: Once, when I was still training, I had to arrest this old man for shoplifting. He was about 75. When we got down to the jail, the guy asked me for change (coins) to make his phone call. I felt sorry for him, I guess, so I gave him four quarters, I just gave them to him.
My trainer was sitting there watching all of this and not saying anything, and when the old man left, the trainer told me: “You know, these phones (in the jail) don’t take quarters. It’s collect calls only.” I sure felt stupid, but I was new. And I felt sorry for the guy.
Mike: A lot of this stuff, they don’t train us for it at the (police) academy. We run into a lot of situations daily that just don’t fit into what the “book” says, what they train us for.
Rick: A lot of times, it seems like people, when in doubt, will call the police. When they don’t know where else to turn, they’ll call the police.
Mike: Of course, we’re trained to handle all kinds of calls. Sometimes, people will call and say they’re stranded in town with no gas or money. So we refer them somewhere to an agency where they can get the help they need. The goal isn’t always to know the answer, but to know where to get the answer.
Advocate: But it’s OK that people call you when they don’t know where else to call, isn’t it?
Mike: Yes, because ultimately we can probably help them find help.
Advocate: Well, we kind of veered off-track here. We were talking about the Lakewood shooting.
Mike: What people need to remember is that Lakewood didn’t cause that to happen. It was just chance, they didn’t intend to shoot a police officer, or anyone else for that matter. They were just backed up (when the officer confronted them), they had a gun, thought they were going to be arrested, and it just happened.
Rick: It was just circumstance. If something is going to happen to you, well, you can lock yourself up in the house and all of that, but what good is that? You just have to take the normal crime prevention steps.
Pam: You know, someone tried to steal my car the other day—right outside the Storefront. Luckily, a wrecker driver was going past and he heard the alarm and followed the guy, so we got him, but…
Rick: Nobody’s immune to crime. Not even police officers.
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